If you want to hear from the Lord and encounter Him in your dreams, the answer is to get more sleep and dispense with religious mindsets, according to an author and pastoral counselor.
In an interview with The Christian Post about her latest book, Winning the Battle for the Night: God's Plan for Sleep, Dreams, and Revelation, Faith Blatchford said she believes culture has turned a corner when it comes to sleep and she wants to offer hope to the tens of millions of Americans who are suffering from sleep deprivation.
Writing and researching the book was, for the author, "a kaleidoscope of revelation," she said. Blatchford hopes she can be a messenger of sorts for God's divine purposes for sleep, "God's sleep ambassador," if you will, she added.
"The numbers are increasing as far as the sleep deficit" among Americans, Blatchford said, mentioning a study she read a few years ago that showed around 70 million Americans suffered from some kind of sleep disorder. Related statistics show that nearly two-thirds of Americans do not get enough sleep.
Among those tens of millions of people, some are chronic insomniacs. Others opt not to sleep by choice, and Blatchford was once such a person.
But God wants to be involved in our night hours, she would soon discover, and destructive mentalities stand in the way of that.
"My motto was: Sleep is highly overrated. I had so many things I wanted to do and it just seemed to be like a waste of time to do nothing for eight hours at night. And so, I would do as little sleeping as humanly possible and really took pride in that," Blatchford recounted.
She had friends who would tell her of these remarkable things they had been praying about, and would subsequently encounter God in remarkable ways in their dreams and she began to wonder why she wasn't having them, as a believing faithful Christian.
She shared her frustration about this with one such friend out of a place of stress and a little jealousy.
Her friend replied: "Faith, you don't sleep enough to dream."
That conversation marked a turning point and she set out to know more about the dream world, particularly given how many instances there are of God communicating in dreams with people in Scripture.
But Blatchford still had to be convinced that sleep was not a waste of time, which led her to research the benefits of sleep.
In addition to the medical benefits of sleep — which Blatchford outlines in chapter 5 — she would also discover a particular problem many Western Christians have about the dream world, a pernicious mental hurdle that bars God from speaking in dreams. But some of these same Christians in the West who believe this have no problem with the idea of God revealing himself to Muslims in the Middle East in their dreams.
While dreams do not have the same authority as Scripture and it would be foolish to make doctrines out of them, the author underscores that when approaching this topic, one's mindset matters significantly. Though some dreams are indeed silly, Blatchford writes that many Christians tend to regard their dreams as simply a product of eating "too many lentils" or "pizza" the night before.
And some of the Christian faith's most well known theologians over the years of Church history have written that the way Christians encounter God is solely through the Word of God, the mind, and their five senses — but nothing coming from God Himself in the spiritual realm. Yet Blatchford maintains that the spirit realm does not belong to New Age gurus or the occult, but to God.
In chapter 4, the author unpacks several of those experiences biblical characters had encounters with God in the night and how their obedience to what He told them was essential to the unfolding of the biblical timeline.
And one has to at least wonder, she contends in the book, how American history might have been different had Abraham Lincoln believed that God gave warnings through dreams.
Lincoln recounted a dream that he had just a few days prior to his assassination to his wife and bodyguard, Ward Hill Lamon, who described the dream in a biography called Recollections of Abraham Lincoln 1847–1865.
As is described in this biography, Lincoln recounted the many times in the Bible where God interacts with people in dreams but people in his day considered dreams foolish. His wife told him that he looked "dreadfully solemn" as he told her this, and inquired if he believed in dreams. He told her that he did not but that he recently had one that haunted him.
Lincoln had dreamt about his own untimely demise.
In this dream the 16th American president was walking around the various rooms of the White House with a deathlike stillness in the air. He heard sobs coming from mourners but could not see who was crying. When Lincoln entered the East Room he came upon a catafalque supporting a corpse in funeral vestments with the face covered with soldiers stationed about it.
"Who's dead in the White House" Lincoln asked a solider in the dream.
He replied: "The President ... he was killed by an assassin."
Blatchford told CP, "What if [Lincoln] had actually believed that God still warned people in dreams like God warned Joseph?" referring to the story in Matthew 2 where He instructed him in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt in light of King Herod's plot to kill him.
Yet because Lincoln wrote off the dream as "only a dream" he disregarded the advice of Lamon who reportedly pleaded with the president to avoid going outside as much as possible, especially events like the theater.
Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, and the American Civil War ended on April 9, 1865. John Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln a few days later on April 14 at Ford's Theater during a showing of the three-act play "Our American Cousin."
"Our country today might be in a totally different atmosphere, racially, if Abraham had lived," Blatchford said, noting that a major theme in Lincoln's second inaugural address was "binding the wounds" of the nation. Lincoln's vision for Reconstruction was not realized under his successors and America's racial wounds remain.
"So I think this mindset that people have that 'God doesn't [speak in dreams], that it's scary, it's heretical, it's not safe...what we've done is that we've muzzled God but we have not dealt with the fact that if there is a spirit world and that we are not just mind and body, but we're mind, body, and spirit," Blatchford said.
And when Christians cut God off with that kind of mindset they are nevertheless still vulnerable to nightmares; the word nightmare actually means "night demon," she noted.
In chapter 8, "The Enemy's Tactics," Blatchford explores the three strategies of the devil to disturb sleep and equips readers to engage in spiritual warfare, teaching them how to pray and stand against his schemes.
But contrary to popular sentiment, the devil does not own the nighttime nor the darkness, Blatchford said, highlighting another untruth some Christians and others believe. The phrase "Prince of Darkness," a popular name for the devil, is not even scriptural. Bernard of Clairveaux first used it in a sermon in the 13th century and it was later picked up in John Milton's Paradise Lost, and was later popularized in culture, she said.
"God created from the darkness, He owns it because He named it. He gave Moses authority to release darkness on the Egyptians," she said.
The secular world is also realizing the power and value of sleep, even though they are leaving God out of the picture.
Blatchford mentioned that several months ago in the Style section of The New York Times, an above-the-fold headline said: "Sleep: Is the New Status Symbol."
Silicon Valley business entrepreneurs see the sleep space as a $32 billion market, and this is not about pillows and mattresses, but a burgeoning model of sleep products. The insurance company Aetna is reportedly now giving their employees $500 bonuses if they can prove, through Fitbit or a similar sleep hour-counting device, that they have had 20 days of seven hours of sleep or more. And the RAND corporation has done a study showing that the business loss cost businesses $411 billion, the author explains.
Last year, Ariana Huffington released her book The Sleep Revolution, which details her physical breakdown due to her being a workaholic.
Blatchford expressed her desire to come alongside all of this writing and research on sleep but to also include "the God-factor."
"So, this whole shift in focus from the badge of honor that 'I function with four hours or less of sleep at night' to the place where now people are paid extra for sleeping more," presents an opportunity for the Church to speak about this prophetically.
"I think God has times and seasons, to accomplish His purposes and this is almost a kairos moment," in history, Blatchford said.
Blatchford, who is an ordained pastoral counselor and is based in Redding, California, with Bethel Church, conducts surveys at teaching seminars about this very subject where she asks those in attendance if they have ever heard messages or sermons from the pulpit on sleep.
"Ninety-nine percent of the people say 'no,'" Blatchford said.
"The world has run out of answers and so we need innovative ideas, we need inspiration, and the source of that, I believe, is going to come through this resurgence of embracing the night and sleep."
What was born out of her desire to have more dreams has turned out to be something she believes is on "God's agenda" to reclaim in this season.
Blatchford reiterated that she hopes her book ministers to those who feel hopeless, particularly about their sleep problems, and the anxiety issues that stem from it.
"When we start talking about the statistics — the 70 million who are insomniacs and the 130 million who are workaholics and work three jobs — the tendency for people in those numbers is to feel condemned, shamed, and trapped.
"And it is interesting when you read the story of Job, he talks about lying on his bed, not able to sleep. He had insomnia. He had all kinds of problems — financial, physical, family — the things that keep people awake," she said.
"No matter what one has experienced or is experiencing, He is the God of hope," Blatchford said. "The end of [Job's] story was restoration. And that if God is the one who gives us sleep, then He is the one who is able to bring healing to all the negative things that have happened in our body because of lack of sleep." .